Saturday, March 22, 2014

Game 141: Tunnels & Trolls: Crusaders of Khazan (1990)


When I was a kid, I was a big fan of Cecil Adams's "The Straight Dope," a syndicated newspaper column occasionally aggregated into a book. Cecil provided a service that was invaluable in those pre-Internet days. People would write to him about anything, and he'd research it and figure out the answer. Such questions might include the best way to kill cockroaches, the difference between regular and "premium" gas, and the origins of phrases like "in like Flynn." I hadn't thought of the column in years and I was surprised to find that 30 years after I started reading it, it's still going. I wonder how often he replies, "Christ, just Google it" these days.

Anyway, I think the first time I heard about Dungeons & Dragons was in a "Straight Dope" column from 1980. I remembered a few keywords from the column and found it instantly. God, I love the Internet Age. Adams spends some time trying to explain the game to readers who grew up long before all this "role-playing" nonsense. He then says: "The concept seems simple enough. It's the application that throws me. There are two main problems: (1) there are one billion rules, and (2) the game requires nonstop mathematical finagling that would constipate Einstein."

This, apparently, was the same reaction experienced by Ken St. Andre when he first read a Dungeons & Dragons manual in 1975. According to his own history, he stopped into a Flying Buffalo game store in Phoenix, excited to check out this new game people were talking about, and found the rule book "baffling." Convinced that the idea was good but the execution was bad (something that many other RPG players have argued since), he went home and created Tunnels & Trolls in a week. After some playtesting with friends, he revised the rules, cranked out a bunch of copies at the university library, and pretty soon the world had its second role-playing game.

The second edition cover.

In both content and business, Tunnels & Trolls seems to have always been much less serious than Dungeons & Dragons. The creators never really developed a full campaign setting, simply saying that it occurs "in a world somewhat but not exactly similar to Tolkien's Middle Earth." Classes are just warriors, wizards, and rogues (I guess there are more in more recent editions). There are no alignments, and everything just uses six-sided dice. Spells include such titles as "Oh Go Away!," "Take That, You Fiend!," and "Slush Yuck." Even the business end is still quite informal. St. Andre sold the rights to Flying Buffalo, "makers of fun games since 1970," whose web site looks like it hasn't been updated since then. The company has funded the next edition of the game via Kickstarter.

At some point, St. Andre was joined by Elizabeth Danforth, and the two worked together on the fifth edition of T&T in 1979. CRPG addicts know the pair primarily for something else: Wasteland, which they developed at Interplay with Brian Fargo and Michael Stackpole (among others). As far as I can tell, Wasteland was St. Andre's only CRPG (aside for a module for Stuart Smith's Adventure Construction Set), but Danforth went on to work on a few others, including Crusaders of Khazan. This time, she worked for New World Computing under the direction of none other than Jon Van Caneghem, creator of the Might & Magic series.

Short of Gary Gygax collaborating directly with Richard Garriott, it's hard to imagine a game with a stronger pedigree. Given that, I've been a little underwhelmed by the game so far. It features ugly graphics (including simply horrible character portraits), bare-bones sound, and an interface that's clunky despite supporting simultaneous, redundant mouse and keyboard commands, which I usually like. It feels very little like a New World game. This seems to be because Van Ceneghem contracted the actual programming of the game to Japanese developers, and its first versions were published for Japanese PCs.

Wandering around the marketplace in the City of Gull.

On the other hand, the story has promise, and if the opening city is any indication, the game will serve up some interesting encounters with role-playing options. In these areas, Khazan feels a bit more like Danforth's efforts in Wasteland.

The manual by Neal Halford, plus the dozens of screens of pre-game text, aspire to Ultima levels of detail. The game takes place on the Dragon Continent (so-named for its shape), half of which is under the control of an empire; the other half is a combination of independent city-states. In ancient times, a cabal of wizards used to rule the land, but they collectively went insane with power and started the Ancient Wizard's War, which left the land scarred and barren. Evil monsters invaded the world and humanity neared extinction before a great wizard named Khazan unified the intelligent races, swept the world of evil, and initiated a 600-year golden age.

Part of the game's introductory screens, told as a tavern tale.

But evil returned in the persona of a half-elf/half-orc named Lerotra'hh, who unified the monsters as Khazan had done with the humanoid races. She corrupted Khazan's deputy, Khara Kang, and used the knowledge of his secrets to wage a successful war. On the brink of defeat, Khazan agreed to go into exile and give the empire to Lerotra'hh as long as she agreed to give men and monsters equal rights within the boundaries of the empire. She consented, Khazan disappeared, and the "Dark Empress" has ruled for 400 years since the bargain, honoring the treaty "in fact if not always in spirit." But lately, enraged that the monsters have been settling into sedate civilization under the influence of their human allies, she has been loosing the bonds. Armies of monsters are on the move again, towns are burning, and the consensus seems to be that a party of adventurers is needed to set everything straight.

Character creation is a very random process, offering few opportunities to game the statistics. Age, attributes, gold, and a bonus category for "combat additions" are all randomized from d6es, so it's extremely hard to engage in "attribute eugenics." You almost always get at least a couple unfavorable stats no matter how much dice-scumming you attempt, especially since you have to establish race and sex before you see the attributes.


Races are selected from human, dwarf, elf, and--in a stunning departure from Tolkien--"hobb." Attributes are identical to Dungeons & Dragons except with "luck" replacing "wisdom." Attribute rolls for humans seem to be 3d6; those for other races get up to 6d6 in certain categories, but they're almost always balanced by lower rolls in others. Classes are limited to warriors, rogues, and wizards, with the latter class having spells that compensate for the lack of a priest or cleric class. Tunnels & Trolls doesn't buck any standard fantasy tropes: dwarves make the best warriors, hobbs the best thieves, and elves the best wizards, with humans serving in their usual "jack of all trades" role.

I went with two warriors, a wizard, and a rogue, spreading them among all four races, but the game offers a slew of NPCs to replace any or all of your party members, so I can make swaps if I feel like I'm underpowered somewhere.

During character creation, you also choose from between two portraits of the associated race, class, and sex, and all of them are just godawful. I can only assume they looked better on a PC-88 or PC-98 or something.

What is the woman on the left even wearing?

The game begins on the island of Phoron in the city of Gull, a multi-sectioned, isometric metropolis populated with shops, guilds, transportation stations, and both fixed and random encounters on the street. The island serves as a kind of gateway to the Dragon Continent.

The adventure begins.

The city offers weapons, armor, and other equipment for the starting party, and I found that I had just enough gold to afford rations (consumed every night at midnight whether sleeping or walking) and mid-level combat equipment. Available weapons and armor are restricted by strength and dexterity, but otherwise there are far fewer class restrictions than in D&D.

Buying weapons. I briefly enjoyed the idea of my character beating goblins with a saxophone, but it turns out that a "sax" is just a type of dagger. A "jambiya" is a curved dagger, a "poniard" a dagger with a crossguard. This game does to daggers what D&D does to polearms.

Wandering around the city, I began to enjoy the game's approach to encounters, which are mostly random. They include beggars pleading for funds, storytellers happy to reveal a bit of lore for a copper piece, and wandering mages who will identify items. A kid with a wheelbarrow offered to take me to an inn if I'd dump my "heavy goods" in his barrow; fearing theft, I said no.

A few examples of random encounters. The middle screen shows the game's automap.

In one memorable sequence, I encountered some sinister guards protecting some large crates, inside of which I could hear roaring. The guards warned me off, but I kept moving forward and they attacked. After I defeated them, I had the opportunity to open any of the three crates.


The first one had a dehydrated bear. Feeling sorry for the beast, I chose an option to give it some water, and using the strength from the drink, the beast polymorphed into a human, who disappeared after offering me a tip about language. The second crate also held a dehydrated bear and, in light of my first experience, I also gave him some water. He attacked and slaughtered me. In a reload, the third crate had a manticore. I like this kind of encounter and series of role-playing options, and I hope the game keeps serving them up.

There have only been a few combats in the game so far. In combat, the game switches to a special screen on which the two parties face each other, sometimes with natural obstacles to navigate around. Characters act in an order determined by speed. They can move a few times before attacking with either melee or ranged weapons, casting a spell, or "pushing" the enemy back a square or two. The game also offers an auto combat for easy fights. I'll have more on combat later.

The party prepares to face a hobgoblin and a mosquito.

There are a number of original elements to the game, some endemic to the Tunnels & Trolls system, others specific to the game engine. They include:

  • The character portrait changes based on what the character is wearing and wielding. It's never any less ugly.
  • Your facing direction matters. There is no key to interact with people or items, so these interactions happen automatically when you face the person or object from an adjacent square. If you don't face a shopkeeper, you don't talk to him. If you don't face a chest, you don't open it.

A bulletin board. I wouldn't have seen this if I hadn't faced east here.

  • Much like Legend of Faerghail, the game promises to do something with languages. There are 19 of them, organized into "civilized," "ancient," and "beast" categories. Each character starts with one or two, and trainers can be found in cities to teach more.
  • There are no derived attributes. Wounds do direct damage to constitution; spells deplete various attributes depending on the nature of the spell--primarily strength. Spellcasters can lose too much strength and fall unconscious.
  • There are some refreshing nuances to the spells, and they suggest a depth of tactics that I'll be interested to explore as the game progresses. There are spells that double the damage done by bows or swords, that lock doors for a few rounds, that double speed with certain weapons, that "harden muddy ground," that shatter enemy weapons, and that temporarily enchant weapons, among many, many other effects. The spell list owes no obvious influence to any prior system.

The outdoor area of the island.

I suspect that Gull is going to occupy me for another couple of hours, after which I need to explore the rest of the island before finding my way to the Dragon Continent. So far, it seems like a slight game but with some interesting elements. I look forward to seeing what it offers.

76 comments:

  1. I hope this game is a cool as it looks! Just skimming over the screen shots, it looks very in depth.

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  2. I did some poking around trying to find some decent sized screenshots of the PC-88 version of Crusaders of Khazan, and the character portraits don't look all that much better: http://revigorate.files.wordpress.com/2010/12/pc88-advguild3.png?w=640&h=400 . Nor do they look all that great on the PC-98: http://www.legendra.com/media/screenshots/pc98/tunnels___trolls__crusaders_of_khazan/tunnels___trolls__crusaders_of_khazan_screen_1.jpg

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    1. Thanks for digging those up. I can't account for the quality, then. I mean, certainly we've seen non-ugly graphics in CGA before.

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  3. The woman on the left is wearing anime. She appears to have gotten a particularly bad case of it.

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    1. I don't know. The graphics aren't even good enough for me to recognize it as anime. She appears to be wearing a string bikini bottom and a top that bares her midriff.

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  4. The game has that ugly Japanese PC aesthetic to it. The PC-98 versions of Might and Magic looked similar. It seems like they tried to copy the Macintosh of the 80s with all the windows. I remember how ugly old Mac games and old Windows games looked.

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    1. I'm having a hard time reading any of the dreaded Japanese Influence in this game. It looks as gross as any of the other titles played up to this point. If it hadn't been pointed out to be a PC-88/98 game originally, I would have assumed it was made by white people.

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    2. Check out Sorcerian for a NEC PC-8801->IBM PC game. It looks much worse than Tunnels & Trolls and by the time Sierra licensed it for distribution in the US in 1990, woefully outdated.

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    3. I was about to say the same thing. While the game seems to have great potential and the Troll ruleset (which I've never played) seems quite fun, the game is so ugly I could see myself having a hard time playing it. And this isn't saying anything about the power of the graphics engine, just how horribly ugly the Japanese program aesthetic was then.

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    4. I miss games that had windows you could move however you wanted. Castle of the Winds had a great UI. Spells bound to keys for easy casting, number pad movement, and your inventory had nesting containers that could each open int your own window to manipulate however you wanted.

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  5. Ugh, I always hated goofy D&D clones. There is a certain sort of geek that thinks that these jokes never get old and are funny EVERY SINGLE TIME. The essence of a joke is novelty. How do people laugh at the same jokes again and again? It's a real phenomenon though, otherwise the Munchkin boardgame wouldn't be a million-seller.

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    1. What jokes are you referring to in the context of T&T?

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    2. Spells include such titles as "Oh Go Away!," "Take That, You Fiend!," and "Slush Yuck."

      Ugh. A sign that more "jokes" lurk around, just waiting to suck.

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    3. Actually, T&T isn't a D&D clone. Its a completely different rpg system. Although it does have some common ground with D&D (as doi nearly all rpgs) many of the rules (such as combat) are completely different.

      Re, the silly spell names, if I recall correctly Ken St.Andre considered the D&D spell names to be dull (e.g. "Magic Missile") and he thought that humerous names were better than dull. I'm not sure I agree myself.

      I'd also observe that original D&D was often played with a fair bit of humour/silliness at times :)

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    4. I wouldn't say it's not TOTALLY a clone though. For one thing, its birth was due to St. Andre's thoughts on D&D after a session of it and its mind-boggling "f*ckload of rules" (eloquently worded by the Retarded Animal Babies).

      As for spell names, I'd rather have them dull like D&D or stupid like T&T than to have them unpronounceable in some faux Elvish (Naar Cam) or Pig Latin with a pseudo-archaic twist (Expelli-anus).

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    5. Actually, in early editions of TDE unpronounceable spell names had a meaning: instead of rolling a dice, the player had to speak the spell formula by heart to determine if a spell succeeds or fails. So some spell had easier and more memorable formulas, others - more complicated and obscure to make for a kind of difficulty scale.

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    6. I once interviewed Ken St. Andre for my fanzine "Take That You Fiend!" and he gave a not totally convincing rationale for the spell names. If memory serves, it went along the lines of the jokey names being the ones used in common parlance, so as not to frighten the non-magical population at large.

      Thus, the “proper” spell name might be “identify new person who has little or no experience” but the T&T version of this would be “Find newbie” or even “Find nu-be”.

      Another example. A spell’s proper name might be “Head butt applied in aggressive manner” but the T&T version would be “Stitch that, Jimmy”.

      D&D might have a “Resolve conundrum” spell; T&T’s version would be “WTF?”.

      Those are silly examples, but hopefully you can see where I am going with this. Society will always create slang versions of words and phrases, bro’/bestie/mate/me ol' mucker. Just think of it as shorthand, or a forerunner of text speak.

      One intrinsic element of the T&T philosophy was: if you don’t like it, change it. Although there was a house magazine (Sorceror’s Apprentice) that offered scenario ideas, rules modifications and so on, there was never an ethos of “the rules are gospel”, and certainly no incentive to learn the rules (and monster manuals) backwards so that when a luminous lurking pippledopper (a monster I have just made up) appeared, you knew exactly how to defeat it.

      I am in danger of reviving the D&D vs T&T wars of the mid-seventies (T&T was the first FRP game published in the UK) so I’ll stop there, except to say different strokes for different folks (or, as D&D players might say: People are different and therefore it should not be altogether surprising that they enjoy different aspects of a game design).

      OK, that was the last dig at the occasional pompousness of the D&D system.

      If I can use a musical analogy, T&T is the Ramones; D&D is Yes. Both good at what they did.

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    7. So... Dispel Illusion is actually "ORLY?", eh?

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    8. "Dispel illusion" is actually "Oh, there it is" but use whatever works for you.

      The T&T system of magic does not use scrolls; it postulates that magic is a psionic ability. Wizards are taught to achieve a certain mental state, waggle fingers and what-not in a prescribed manner, and let it all out, man.

      Consequently, once a spell is learnt you can refer to it by whatever name helps you recall the mental state and finger jiggery-pokery needed to cast it.

      In our T&T group there was a D&D player who often referred to the flash-bang "Take That, You Fiend!" spell as "Magic Missile" because he knew it wound us up.

      I probably used to announce the spell as something cheesy like: "Fried brains? Coming right up!".

      Then again, I like the Flash Gordon movie and Saturday Morning Picture show adventures :-)

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  6. Uh... this Cecil person, is he a time lord? How can he write a column in 1980 and reveal how Gygax was going to leave TSR in "the mid-1980s"? Colour me impressed!

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    1. A lot of his early columns were later updated in an effort to keep his answers relevant. They didn't do a good job of annotating these updates, though.

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    2. I prefer to believe in the existence of Time Lords.

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  7. The CRPG Addict talks about the Straight Dope! My online obsessions are merging!

    You should definitely check out the message board over there if you haven't yet. It's been a daily read for me for the past ~eight years.

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  8. Yep, the encounters and role-playing are T&T's greatest strength. The game uses a lot of original p&p modules as its source material, thus much of the free-formness of a p&p session got translated into it. It's kinda unique in that regards, and really could have become a classic if it wasn't for the bugs.

    By the way, rogues aren't exactly thieves in T&T but rather "rogue wizards" (i.e. not members of the wizards guild). There's a funny slip in gameplay associated with that: your wizard can teach your rogue new spells, but the rogue still has to pay a full price. But no one knows whom that money goes to, since the wizard never gets any richer from that sessions.

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    1. The manual does mention that they can "open locks with little difficulty, and disarm any number of traps," so there's something of the traditional "thief" here, too.

      I'm confused about the process of having them learn spells. There's a wizard spell called "Teacher" that supposedly teaches the rogue one spell; are you saying this costs money to cast?

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    2. Well, you can put it that way but the actual mechanic is a bit different. When you cast "Teacher" it opens a spell-buying interface, just like the one in the guilds. There your rogue can buy any spell your wizard has - but he has to pay for it, once again just like he'd do in the guilds. Since each character has its own gold, it'd be logical to think that the money paid should be just transfered from the rogue to the wizard - but instead they just disappear into thin air.

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    3. I always imagine that spell to create a kind of portal on the wizard's chest that links to an ethereal entity who can siphon the wizard's spell knowledge in to the rogue's brain. The money is paid to said entity for this procedure.

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    4. Or maybe it's just that spells in the game have DRM, so you have to pay to register no matter how you've acquired a copy.

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    5. Reply part one (part two to follow)

      Let me clarify things a bit with character classes and, in particular, rogues.

      There are only four character classes in T&T: wizard, warrior, warrior/wizard and rogue.

      What D&D players would think of as character classes are regarded as occupations (e.g. bard) or … er … cultural stereotypes (e.g. barbarians).

      Ken St. Andre did not want religion in his game for reasons we don’t need to go into here, and I happen to think that in a world where wizards with the power of Gandalf and Sauron exist, “religion” would manifest itself as the worship of, or adherence to the principles of, one or more powerful sorcerers.

      So, there are no clerics in T&T but if you, as Games Master, want to create a religious system in your game world, there was nothing in the rules to prevent this.

      If you want your character to be a kleptomaniac barbarian, go ahead. If you want your character to be a ukulele playing cross-dressing religious zealot who only eats meat on days with the letter R in them, knock yourself out. All you have to do is decide whether they can’t do magic (warrior); can do magic but have not studied it (rogue); can do magic and have studied it (wizard).

      There are no “special abilities” (e.g. lock-picking) or “development paths” associated with those choices of character types in T&T, other than those you impose yourself or those imposed on you by the GM. In other words, if I am playing a “hedge wizard” I might restrict myself to low-level curative and illusionist spells, and leave the flash-bang stuff to the more macho wizards.

      I realise little of the above is germane to the computer game, but hey-ho …

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    6. Reply part two

      WIZARDS

      So, you have magic users, which in the T&T world view would comprise people whose magical ability had been identified at an early age and developed at a suitable academy. Think Russian gymnasts before the Berlin Wall came down and substitute magic spells for gymnastics.

      Having spent their formative years cloistered in an academy, these wizards would not be particularly adept at fighting and so it is recommended in the rules that when they do fight, they do so using uncomplicated weapons, such as daggers, batons, quarterstaves and suchlike. There is nothing to stop them from using heavier weapons, but games masters usually discouraged this by making them do a saving throw every combat round to see if they tripped over the broadsword or hacked their own ear off with their battle-axe.

      WARRIOR-WIZARDS

      When creating a character (roll three dice for each attribute), on very rare occasions you would create one that had above average score in all attributes (12 or more; yes, I know it should be 11 or more, but St. Andre was a librarian, not a mathematician).

      These guys – or gals – would be the Bo Jackson or Denis Compton (look him up) of their generation, capable of excelling at more than one discipline, hence they could be deemed warrior/wizards (or “war-wizzes”, though doubtless critics of jokey spell names would never stoop to such vernacularisms) and could thus not only cast spells (almost) as proficiently as pukka wizards (having, like them, been trained to do so), but they could also wield a mean weapon.

      Still with me?

      WARRIORS

      Warriors are fairly straight forward. If it moves, hit it. If it does not move, hit it and see if it starts moving. They can never (under normal circumstances) learn magic, any more than I can lick my own genitals (without cutting them off first).

      ROGUES

      The T&T rule book uses the examples of characters such as the Grey Mouser (or Gray Mouser if you prefer the American spelling) or Cugel the clever when trying to describe what a rogue is; we’re talking about characters that live by their wits.
      Had they come from the right background, they might have been identified at an early age as possessing magical ability, and therefore won a scholarship to a wizards’ school, but they did not; however, they do have the ability (provided they have the brains and dexterity) to cast spells if they are taught them effectively.

      Note that in T&T, attributes can be improved as you go up levels, so a rogue that starts out too thick to cast spells may later on in life become brainy enough to do so.

      Any road up, I was going to explain that the Wizards’ Guild frowns on its members teaching spells to people outside of the guild, i.e. rogues. In all probability, being caught doing so would entail expulsion from the guild and having an enforced frontal lobotomy.

      Desperate situations require desperate measures, however, and sometimes a wizard will pass on his knowledge to a trusty companion, using the Teacher spell to short-cut the process. Naturally, any payment from the rogue would be kept off the books!

      So, rogues can be thought of as a bit “thief” like and indeed the rules, by mentioning the likes of the Grey Mouser, encourage this association, but, as a friend of mine and fellow T&T die-hard once explained to me, it is equally apposite to think of a “rogue” as a maverick, someone who does not fit the pigeon holes society likes to use. I know you can’t put a rogue elephant in a pigeon hole – it would be a helluva squeeze - but the concept of a rogue elephant might be useful in getting your head around what a rogue is.

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    7. Wouldn't a Ninja be all three? Stealthy, lethal with a sword and able to whip up some Ninjutsu/Ninpo magic thingy?

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    8. Certainly possible for either a warrior-wizard or suitably skilled rogue to act like a ninja (walk like an Egyptian, etc.)

      BTW, I have, of course, played this computer game but I never completed it because there was a bug that transported my party halfway across the continent, which put something of a crimp on whatever objective they were pursuing at the time.

      Hopefully the version CRPaddict is using contains a bug fix.

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    9. Thanks for all the background information and context, Fiendish. I look forward to seeing how much of this character flexibility translates to the computer version.

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  9. I played a fair amount of T&T back when I was a youngster. Most of it was in the solo dungeons, of which at least 95% of all material for T&T used to be (if not still is) for solo play- GM/Player and a gamebook. Fun stuff, if crazy. Loved the game. Wish I could play it now at my ripe old age of 51. Of course, with my wife dead since Wednesday morning, I feel closer to 101 but I am told that gets better.

    Glad you are playing this tho. I hope it turns out to be a good'un. I still hope to play it, so maybe I should.

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    1. My condolences for your loss william. I hope you do feel better, though it will be a long road.

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  10. I hope this isn't a spoiler. If it is, I apologize, but make sure that you step on every square in this game as there are events that are trigger based which means, you miss the square, you miss the event.

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    1. Not a spoiler at all. Thanks for the warning. I'm half-worried that no only do I have to step on every square, I have to step on every square facing each direction.

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    2. You don't have to. But you DO have to to face EACH wall, doodads and NPCs though.

      It's a time-consuming mechanic and, coupled with the amount of game-breaking bugs, made this game a hard-sell. I like the top-down interface, though.

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    3. Yikes. For a game that seems to have some cool ideas, it certainly tries hard to spoil all of that, doesn't it?

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    4. It's certainly less work than playing Knights of Legend, though.

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    5. That will almost always be the case.

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  11. A stunning departure from tolkien lol

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  12. This is the first game I fully gave up on before finishing. All the monster's ability scale with the player's level. I had my whole party wiped out by a bunch of rats one time too many.

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    1. Really? We don't see that dynamic often in this era. That sucks.

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    2. It certainly takes away the entire point of leveling up.

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    3. Pool of Radiance actually increased the number of monsters to match your level. This was never done in any of the other Gold Box games.

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    4. In the same vein, I'm facing a punishing level up system in another game (Ultima IV). It seems like a strange decision. I understand wanting keep combat challenging, but it also removes the feeling of increasing competence. If true, Pool of Radiance's method seems sound (overwhelm, instead of overpower). and satisfying as fighters gain proficiency in sweeping and mages get fireball.

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    5. You can test it. After finishing Sokal Keep, go to the graveyard. I played around with a single-character party, and the wights behind the tower wouldn't even show up until I hit level 5 for mage.

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    6. AFAIK, PoR scaled with character attributes, rather than level, and it was only the random encounters. Fixed encounters were...fixed.

      If you mod your stats to 18s, you will fight 20 kodolds in random encouinters in the slums, if you have more reasonable stats you will fight less than half that.

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    7. The worst offender is a Chinese RPG called "Buddha's Palm".

      Not only do the enemies level up with you, the cost of everything in the game also goes up. Weapons that cost 100GP at level 1 goes up to more than 10 times at level 10.

      Great graphics and mechanics but fuuuuuuu*k!!! Hated that stupid scaling shit.

      http://www.b8t6.com/Article/200806/show327972c64p1.html

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    8. Looking back from a year later, it's unfortunate that banshee's bit of info was lost or forgotten during the break. There's a sort of painful-funny (I bet the Germans have a word for it) in the grinding you did that almost made it unwinnable.

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    9. I'm not sure I forgot it as much as didn't believe it. I mean, Oblivion and Skyrim do monster scaling, too, but not this harshly. A high-level character in these games has more resources to survive than a low-level character, even if he's fighting draugr death overlords rather than draugr wights.

      The absurd thing about T&T is that the scaling applies to individual monsters, too. Late in the game, you're running into rats who have 100 hit points and can do 80 hit points in damage.

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    10. It is true, however, that banshee attempted to warn me and I should have taken his comment more seriously.

      Delete
  13. Neal hallfords tales about translating the manual are entertaining

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    1. You're talking about where he painstakingly translated the Japanese before discovering that the Japanese version had been translated from an English version that New World stuck in a drawer somewhere?

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    2. I don't... Is that even English?

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    3. Yes, though poorly written. The story on MobyGames goes that Hallford was tasked with writing the manual and text for the American release. It had already been released in Japan. He spent months translating the Japanese text into English before he discovered that the Japanese hadn't written their version--they had translated it from an English text. Someone at New World had stuck the text in a drawer and no one told Hallford about it.

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    4. Whew! I thought you went momentarily insane after a few hours of casting Knock Knocks and Poor Babies.

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  14. I hear there was an advanced version of this game.........yes you guessed AT&T :)

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    Replies
    1. ╱╱┏╮
      ╱╱┃┃
      ▉━╯┗━╮
      ▉┈┈┈┈┃
      ▉╮┈┈┈┃
      ╱╰━━━╯

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    2. There was one for kids as well, the "youth" version: TTY.

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    3. Blacbraun: I actually snorted my coffee when I read your sentence. XD

      Still chuckling about it till now.

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  15. I'm especially excited about this as Tunnels and Trolls is one of those games I've always wished I could get myself to play through to the end. The graphics always get me though. It's like they took everything bad about old timey mac graphics and mixed it with everything bad about old timey dos graphics.

    Sadly, there was some trying to create a new engine for it. A bit like what exult did for ultima. Adding polish to the graphics was even a bit point to it, and he was making good progress before it died.

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  16. But... but... what happened with the manticore? I actually don't like the kind of encounters that instantly kill you. Was that the case with the second bear, or were you just too weak from the previous fight?

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    Replies
    1. Same. 'The 2nd box kills you' is like a really bad choose your own adventure book.

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    2. IIRC, it's not an instakill, just a really tough fight.

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    3. Sorry I left you hanging on that. It was another nearly impossible fight. I didn't like leaving it, but I couldn't defeat it after a few reloads, and the game doesn't let you return to the encounter after you've chosen to leave. I figured I was just messing around anyway, and I'd restart my "real" game after I had a sense of the strengths and weaknesses of the characters.

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  17. For your amusement, there were actually Japanese versions of the Goldbox games for the PC-88 or PC-98; you can find excerpts of them on youtube. I had to laugh when I saw the anime version of Vala from Secret.

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  18. In my quest to read all of your postings from beginning to current I am actually still on Pool of Radiance, but when I saw you were actively working on a game that I played most of the way through in the last decade, I figured I had to pop up and say something.

    So, it seriously took me a half-dozen tries over the years since I bought the game (as in, when it came out) to actually get into it, as the graphics are, indeed, SO AWFUL much of the time that it was quite challenging to even want to keep playing before I knew what to do. But once I actually got anything resembling a foothold in the starting town, and particularly once I realized there were actually a lot of interesting "step on a square and make a compelling choice" type areas in the game, I was hooked.

    So yes, the game is absolutely worth playing. You may be the best possible person for this game's reputation, as you can publicize the amount of detail that went into it!

    Of course, for all the talk I just did about how great it is underneath the graphics, this game is also one of only two I have ever consulted a walkthrough for AND STILL NOT BEEN ABLE TO WIN (Dark Heart of Uukrul being the other) so definitely be careful toward the end game (you will have at least a decent idea when you are getting there) not to do things out of order. To say things as vaguely as possible--if you realize you are about to go up against the "end boss" and wonder why you never had to fight the end boss' bodyguards, well, there may be a reason for that, and that reason may be "game let you skip unskippable/necessary area."

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    Replies
    1. I really appreciate the tips. Please stay tuned and let me know if I'm making a mis-step.

      Delete
  19. So that everyone knows, there are two versions of T&T used today: 5.5 and 7th. 5.5 is basically the old version from way back, but cleaned up, tweaked etc. 7th is a more modern version of the same game, with an added skills system.

    6th does not exist and no one should buy it. An...individual named Shipman put it out without permission or returning any of the money to Ken St. Andre, and has refused to stop publishing his own versions of T&T material. Therefore they have gone from 5.5 to 7 with no Oh and Mr. Shipman's company is named Outlaw Press. *headdesk*

    ReplyDelete
  20. So, not to necro, but NECRO.

    I've been reading up on the history of Flying Buffalo and found out how/why a T&T game was made in the first place.

    T&T has always had a pretty minimal standing in the RPG industry, even when these games were released, outside of a very brief period where it was one of the very few competitors to D&D.

    Essentially past 1978 or so it was considered bottom tier license/property.

    Flying Buffalo, the primary publisher of T&T had a long standing deal with Task Force Games, who published table top RPG supplements.

    Task Force Games was acquired by New World Computing in 1988. This was post Pool of Radiance, so the theory is that this was during an RPG license "land grab", where major companies were actively trying to bring in existing RPG properties.

    The acquisition of Task Force by New World, combined with Task Force's existing relationship with Flying Buffalo gave FB (which was a really tiny company) a chance to branch out into the realm of CRPGs.

    This game was made, along with an adaptation of FBs Nuclear War PBM game, neither did well, and neither are remembered by many.

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    1. Thanks, bastard. That turns out to be quite timely!

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    2. I remember the Tunnels&Trolls PBM. Never tried it myself, as it sounded a bit too simplistic for my taste, but I got the impression it was quite popular. It was licensed to KJC Games in the UK, IIRC.

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